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Vacuum Forming Material Selection Guide

This vacuum forming material selection guide is part of our free help with vacuum forming. It lists most common vacuum forming materials, their basic properties in standard grade, some advice on costs & typical uses for formings made from each material type. For more free help, view our process guide, or for more detail on the material, visit our Vacuum Forming Material Specification guide.

 

Material Types, Abbreviations & Density Description, Details & Typical
Applications
Comments / Options
Acrylic

PMMA

High quality, hard, medium - high strength but brittle, good clarity, high cost

Baths, Domes, Light Diffusers, Roof Lights Sanitary Ware and Signs

Various colours & clear grades in 1½ - 6 mm thickness

Can be hand worked or cellulose / enamel painted
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

ABS, 1.08 g/cm³
Hard, rigid, very good impact strength &
weather resistance, medium cost

Electrical Enclosures, Luggage, Sanitary & Vehicle Parts
Limited colours & clear, various textures & finishes, plus fire retardant and UV stabilised grades. Easy to obtain in 1 - 6 mm thickness

Easy to cut, paint or print on
Polycarbonate

PC
Hard, rigid, very good impact strength & clarity, self extinguishing, high cost

Aircraft trim, Light diffusers, Machine Guards, Riot Shields, Signs, Skylights and Visors
Various colours & clear, plus textured & UV stabilised grades, 1 - 6 mm thickness

Easy to machine, screen print, drill, tap & ultrasonically weld
Polyethyleneterephthalate Glycol

PETG, 1.27 g/cm³
FDA approved, good - high impact strength, optically very good, can be sterilised & resilient to wide range of acid oils and alcohols, but not with highly alkaline solutions, high cost

Dairy & Medical Parts, Point of Sale.
Clear only, easy to obtain in 0.8 - 6 mm thickness

Easy to cut, machine or paint
Polyethylene - High Density

HDPE, 0.96 g/cm³
Flexible, v.good impact strength, low cost

Caravan Parts, Enclosures, Housings & Vehicle Parts
Black or white only, easy to obtain in 1 - 5 mm thickness

Needs specialist inks, can't be painted
Polypropylene

PP, 0.91 g/cm³
Flexible, v.good impact strength, low cost

Chemical Tanks, Enclosures, Food Containers, Luggage, Medical Applications and Toys.
Black or natural only, easy to obtain in 0.75 - 6 mm thickness
Filled & additive grades available

Cannot be spray painted
Polystyrene - High Impact

HIPS, 1.06 g/cm³
Wide range of options, high impact strength, low cost

Displays, disposable items, models, packaging, presentation & toys

10+ colours, various textures, flocked, conductive & UV stable grades. Easy to obtain in 0.25 - 6 mm thickness


Screen ink sprayable, cellulose paint needs etching primer

Polyvinyl Chloride

PVC, 1.37 g/cm³
Medium - high strength, good transparency in thinner gauges, good fire retardant & chemical properties. Highly resistant to solvents, low cost

Car Trims, Machine Guards & Packaging

Clear, black or white, easy to obtain 0.25 - 0.75 mm thickness

Thicker grades with good rigidity & impact strength available - most suited for outdoor industrial use

Needs specialist inks, can't be painted